For many foreign students in Spain, the goal would be to convert from a student visa to a work visa in the country. On top of looking for a job, student visa modification can sound even more intimidating, but we promise it doesn’t have to be.

So if you are finishing (or have just finished) your studies in Spain, we’re here to help you. In this article, we’ll cover the 7 ways to modify your student visa to a work permit. We’ll discuss each option in detail so that you know exactly how you can get a work permit in Spain while on a student visa.

Let’s start!



Can I work in Spain with a student visa?


Yes, you can work in Spain with a student visa. If you have already finished your studies, you will have to change to a work permit. (There are different options for this that we’ll explain in a bit.) However, if you are still a student, you should know that it is completely possible to work with your student visa for the duration of your studies.

All student residence cards issued after August 16, 2022 (the date when the modification came into force) already include the phrase “autoriza a trabajar” as an indication that the card itself is sufficient to perform these 30 hours.

This means that by just having the student residence card, you can automatically work up to 30 hours per week (as long as your lecture hours do not overlap) and you can do so throughout Spain (with no geographical limitation).

If your card was issued before the new regulation came into force, the student must carry out a compatibility procedure to work while studying.


Changing student visa to a work visa in Spain


If you are close to finishing or have already finished your studies, but would like to stay in Spain to work, you will have to change your student visa to a work visa. This is what we call a student visa modification.

You also have alternatives, such as the job search visa or internship residency, which we will explain below.

A fundamental requirement to convert from a study visa to a work visa, is having successfully completed your studies (passing all the subjects and presenting the certificate of achievement).

Now, let’s take a look at the 7 options to get a work permit as a student.


1. A traditional work authorization


The first option to convert from student visa to work visa is the one that has been most used traditionally. It has undergone many advantageous changes since the reform of the immigration regulations.

While in the past you had to wait 3 years in Spain with your visa for studies to be able to make this modification, this is no longer necessary.

Now you will be able to obtain the work permit as an employee (or self-employed worker) as soon as you finish your studies, regardless of their duration or type.

Thus, in this case, it is won’t be necessary to consider the shortage occupation list and make sure that the job is part of it.

The job offer you receive (necessary to complete this procedure) can be in any sector, and does not necessarily have to be related to your education.

In this sense, you have two options to complete this student visa modification to regular work permit:


Work permit as an employee


In this situation, you are hired by a company in Spain. In Spanish, this permit is called “por cuenta ajena”.

You will just need to get a job offer and you will be granted the permit to work. As we have just mentioned, as the situation of unemployment is not considered, the procedure is really simple and nearly every job position will work.

Bear in mind that the competence work for permits is something that depends on the government of the autonomous community. This means that you won’t apply to the Immigration Office, but to the office that corresponds to your region. In the case that you are in Catalonia, for example, the corresponding institution will be the Generalitat.

You will need to go to this specific office with the company that is offering you the job position and bring the relevant documentation.

However, and as a main difference to the other work permit alternative that we will see in a following section (the highly qualified visa) here the waiting period when it comes to your applicaiton will be much longer. This process lasts, at least, 3 months.


Work permit as a self-employed worker: Opening your own company


It is also possible to get this initial work authorization to start your own company, coming from a student visa. In Spanish, this type of permit is called por cuenta propia. It can be both an S.L. or you working as an independent professional (autónomo).

However, if you would like to take this path, you must be careful.

You will need to present a business plan, and this can be tricky. The business plan must clearly define the activity of the company, including a financial projection, and contain all the required sections. In short, it is something you must put time and effort into.

Our advice is simple.

Be realistic when writing this document. Do not try to impress the government in order to get their approval. Do not say that you will create a thousand job positions if you actually won’t manage to do so. Yes, it is completely true that the institution who analyses your business plan likes it when you promote the Spanish economy, but unrealistic plans don’t get approved.

It is much better to be simple and straight to the point. If you need to say that it will only be you in the project, doing this or that activity, expecting to earn x-amount per year, much better. Usually, if you are clear and realistic, your application will get accepted.

If you would like to get help from our business lawyers in order to successfully create a business plan that ensures your application gets accepted, do not hesitate to contact us.


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2. The Entrepreneur Visa


Many non-EU citizens with the student visa who wish to start their own company or become freelancers, ask us if it would be better to apply for the entrepreneur visa instead of the self-employment visa.

With the entrepreneur’s visa, you can still start your own business and get the residency. Plus, there is no minimum requirement for the amount of time you’ve already been in Spain.

Nevertheless, that is not an option we recommend in all cases.

This is because when determining if the business project is good enough to be accepted for the entrepreneur visa, the government is much more strict and selective. They only accept projects with a big potential to grow, which are really innovative and involve an important technological component. With the regular freelance permit, you can open any kind of company (as long as it does not conduct any illegal activity), so you won’t have that problem.

With the entrepreneur’s visa, there are also more expectations for the project. If you would like to renew this permit, the business must be performing well and as you had previously projected. If not, you will probably need to go back to your country as the renewal won’t be accepted.

However, with the self-employed work permit, this does not happen. The situation is not as strict.

For example, when it comes to the renewal of this extension from student visa to work permit as self-employed, they will just check that the company is active and still registered on the social security.


3. Getting a job offer as a highly qualified worker


The third option, obtaining a permit as a highly qualified worker as a student, offers an advantage and a disadvantage.

First, it does require that you have stayed in Spain for at least one year on your student visa. On the other hand, the main advantage is its fast-track resolution in just 20 days.

Then again, we must understand that this option is not for everyone. This is because its main requirement is to get a job offer as a highly-skilled worker. As you may have guessed, it’s not that simple.

In order to obtain a work permit as a highly-skilled professional, two conditions must be met:

  • The offer is as a manager or position regarded as technical
  • The salary you are going to earn is between €40,000 to 45,000 or above

For this student visa modification, you need to apply to the Unit of Large Companies and Strategic Sectors, the institution that will analyze the job offer. In this sense, there is a big risk of rejection.

Many job positions, even though they meet the salary requirement, are not considered valid for the UGE-CE. That is why it is crucial to do a careful analysis of your application form and documents.


4. One-year permit extension as a student looking for a job


As of September 2018, there has been a new residence permit called the job search visa (“en búsqueda de empleo”). This permit allows students who have been studying in Spain for one year to stay for an 12 additional months to find a job or to start their own company.

Once they find the offer, they can automatically change it to work residency.

Thus, this option is ideal for all those students who have finished their studies and want to modify their work permit, but have not yet found a job offer; and need extra months to do so.

Which are the requirements and things to consider in order to apply for this permit?

  • First of all, the job position you are searching for must be highly qualified. It cannot be a regular job, it must be a technical or managerial position, with a high salary (as we briefly went over in the last section)
  • You must have passed your last or previous course at your university or center
  • You must possess €7,200 (or more) in your bank account, which is currently 100% of the IPREM
  • You need a Spanish medical insurance contract, without copayments

As we have mentioned, the residence permit for students looking for a job is also valid for those wishing to start their own company. They will have one year in order to prepare everything that is required to start the business (business plan, trademark registration, legal constitution, etc.). Bear in mind that the project must be innovative and technological in order to be accepted.


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Caveat: Not all universities are eligible for this extension


You need to be really careful here. Whether or not you are eligible for this modification depends on the university you are studying in or masters you are taking.

To find out if your university is on the Spanish Government’s official list, you can check here.


What happens if the year finishes and I haven’t found a job?


Since the job offer you receive needs to be for a highly qualified position and with a high paying salary, it is true that it may be difficult to find one.

However, don’t worry.

If the extension finishes and you haven’t found a job, you can jump into the regular regime, applying for a work permit as an employee (por cuenta ajena). This is the same option we saw in the first section, but without the need to be in the country for 3 years.


5. Residency for internships


Next, there is also the option to change from a student visa to an internship residency, and in this case, there is no minimum period of study to do so. 

In fact, you could apply for it both in Spain on a student visa or in your home country.

The most important requirement is to still be a student on your student visa or to have completed your course (which must be level 6 or higher) within a period of no more than 3 years.

It is also important that your internship is clearly related to what you have studied.

This would allow you to do a paid internship through an internship agreement with your university or through a contract with the company for up to 2 years. Afterwards, you can modify to an employee work permit and stay in the country to work long term.


6. Golden Visa


If you have the means, Spain’s golden visa is one of the most straightforward and simplest ways to obtain a residence and work authorization in the country.

All you’ll really need is a NIE number and to invest a minimum of €500,000 in Spanish real estate, €1million in Spanish shares, or €2million in Spanish debt.

Once you have made and validated your investment, you can apply for the golden visa to live and work in the country.


7. Digital Nomad Visa


Lastly, is the Digital Nomad Visa. The important thing to keep in mind with this visa is that you must have already had a working relationship with the client or company outside of Spain three months prior to your application.

Furthermore, this is a visa to work in Spain, but remotely. That being said, only a maximum of 20% of your total income can come from within Spain. You must also have an annual salary of €31,752, which is €2,646 a month.


Let us manage the application procedure for you


Whichever option it is, changing from a student visa to a work permit involves doing some paperwork and a legal application. This can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to the new regulation created at the end of 2018, which still does not define the whole spectrum of situations.

Therefore, if you need legal help from an expert team of immigration lawyers, do not hesitate to contact us. We are here to make your life easier. We will analyze your situation, define what would be the best past for you to follow, and manage all the documents and requirements for you.

Student visa modification in Spain shouldn’t be stressful. When should we start?


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